Networking can be a powerful tool in generating new business. Whether you’re a solo-entrepreneur or you work for a large corporation, relationships are a business’s lifeblood. Successful networking is about building long-term, mutually beneficial relationships. Here are a few things to consider as you continue to expand your audience and engage them in new ways to ultimately further your ventures.
Beyond the Boardroom
Networking doesn’t just have to take place in a work setting. You should have the mentality that every meeting you schedule, every plane ride you take, every encounter at your local coffee shop is a networking opportunity. There’s a Chinese proverb that notes, “If you want one year of prosperity, grow grain. If you want ten years of prosperity, grow trees. If you want 100 years of prosperity, grow people.” Grow your network in any way you can. Engage your friends, family, and people you casually meet in conversation about trends you’re seeing and enjoying. You never know what conversation could change your life.
No one is unimportant.
Make it your mission to discover the value in each person you connect with. Don’t make the mistake of discounting people or the environment in which you’re connecting with them in. In today’s world, everyone knows someone, and their networks could be comprised of valuable connections and knowledge you may have never thought would be useful. As you meet people, take the time to listen – not only to who they are and what they do, but what they need and are looking for. Is there a way you can help to garner goodwill for the future? On a related note, don’t go into networking opportunities with the sole mindset of collecting business cards. It’s not a numbers game, and those cards will be useless without some meaning behind them.
Know your desired outcome, but never lead with it.
They say timing is everything, but valued business relationships don’t just happen overnight. There’s something to be said for small-talk and putting in the time to create genuine relationships and connections with those you’re engaging with. It’s definitely a key step before coming to the ‘ask.’ Take it slow. Everyone is busy today. If someone has agreed to meet with you, take confidence from that and focus on nurturing the relationship before cutting to the chase. It could take a few meetings before finding the right to explore how you may be able to work together or connect each other in your various networks.
Look as good as you do online as you do offline.
Today, your first impression is often not face to face. Instead, more and more connections begin online. Social networks have dramatically impacted the way we connect with people. Consider the following when building out your online profiles, especially on professional networks such as LinkedIn:
- Identity: Who are you? Who do you work for and/or where have you worked in the past? What experience and skills do you have? What do you care about? Some of this information is already available online, and your personal profile gives you an opportunity to further build your story beyond basic credentials.
- Relationships: Who are you connected with? Do you share mutual relationships with the person you’re looking to network with? On Twitter you have 200 followers, but you only follow 50 people/brands. Who are those followers? The understanding of your likes and dislikes can be easily read from your online identity.
- Activity: What are you doing both personally and career-wise? What are you posting about or liking? What events are you attending? Your digital presence has never been more important.